The Supermen of Love Me If You Dare and When A Snail Falls in Love

C-dramas are bringing us male leads that are super smart and highly attractive.   Despite their socializing issues, they still manage to provide the romance that draws many of us to Asian dramas.  Both Bo Jiyan (Wallace Huo)  in Love Me If You Dare and Ji Bai (Wang Kai) in When A Snail Falls In Love are very good at their jobs, a little awkward with relationships and all the way adorable.

Hatin’ on Hae Soo in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

There are many aspects of Scarlet Heart: Ryeo that make it a worthwhile K-drama to watch, but there is one that is quite annoying.  Hae Soo (IU) is the female lead that drags this K-drama down. This is not a criticism of IU, who is supercute and an expert in the wide-eye closeup. This is also not an indictment of any of the actors who play the princes (Oh, I see you Wang So (Lee Jun Ki); there’s another post coming with your name on it).

Power in Unity!: Ideal Masculinity in Descendants of the Sun

We all know the primary reason we are all over Descendants of the Sun is Captain “Big Boss” Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki). He’s become one of my favorite male protagonists in a K-drama, so central to the story that he takes attention away from the female lead. At the same time, he reinforces male friendships. Big Boss is pretty much perfect. He’s attractive. He dresses well. He’s courageous, often going into dangerous situations.  He’s humble (sorta?) but also confident in his abilities.  He’s rea

They Are Not Cheerleaders: Female Characters in Haikyuu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball

While you might assume that sports anime series like Haikyuu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball might relegate its female characters to the sidelines, they do a remarkable job of making them smart, relevant to the story and characters in their own right. Sports anime can pose a challenge in trying to include women characters, especially those with single-gender teams like basketball and volleyball. Female characters don’t play on the teams, so they often provide support for the teams in varying capaciti

Redefining Heroism in World Trigger and Kuroko’s Basketball

We often think of heroes as being physically strong, but anime series like World Trigger and Kuroko’s Bastketball make us rethink what it means to be hero. While both lead characters are characterized as physically weak, they remain central to the action and make selflessness the new heroic standard. Both anime series place our potential heroes in situations where people initially judge them by a physically based notion of heroism. We have no illusions about Mikumo Osamu, the main character in 

Relationships and Justice in Nirvana in Fire

In the midst of a paranoid emperor and power-hungry royals, Nirvana in Fire enriches a tale of revenge and redemption with a narrative of love and friendship. We know this trope well: man wronged by someone in power returns on a righteous quest to set things right. This was a wrong of epic proportions. The Emperor (Ding Yong Dai), giving in to his own suspicious nature and a few forged documents, executes his own son Prince Qi and his household, the entire Lin family, and the Chiyan army (that’

In Wuxia, Princess is Not a Bad Word: Nirvana in Fire

Many people equate princess culture with Disney, but the princesses in wuxia popular culture defy those expectations. The Chinese drama Nirvana in Fire counters mainstream princess culture by drawing from the tradition of strong women in wuxia. Critiques of “princess culture” abound, disparaging princesses for suggesting that girls trade their agency for appearance.  The book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, puts it this way:  “The postfeminist mothers of princes

Moody K-dramas and their Moody Leads

Dramatic music. Shadowy settings. Mysterious villains. This can only mean one thing: a moody K-drama! I love my romantic comedies, sageuks and melodramas, but I have a special place in my heart for the police story, especially the “special task force,” the detectives-not-detectives, the “we don’t exist” teams found in K-dramas. More importantly, I love their dramatic, moody male leads. Unlike straightforward police procedurals, these K-dramas share several things in common. Many scenes happen a

K-drama Characters to Love and Loathe

We all watch K-dramas to see the actors we like, but if you’ve watched enough K-dramas, you may have noticed that certain actors frequently show up in strong supporting roles. As a result, some actors gain a reputation for playing good guys, and others gain a reputation for portraying punks. Here are some of my favorite K-drama actors who play characters to love and loathe! Lee Won Jong has to be my favorite supporting actor in K-dramas. He has such incredible range: melodramas, action, histori

Radical Acts of Friendship and Teamwork in World Trigger

Friendship and teamwork is epic in the anime World Trigger! It shows that even when aliens are attacking your city, you need friends to have your back. Border, the organization of highly trained defense agents who fight against aliens known as Neighbors, develops into a close-knit group known for camaraderie, but it doesn’t start off this way.  At the beginning of World Trigger, Border is a hornet’s nest of competition and condescension. Kitora, one of the members of the popular Arashiyama team

Get a New Plan, Stan!, or How Not To Storm the Castle in Hwajung/Splendid Politics

Listen, I know life is rough as a princess in a K-drama. You’re just trying to dodge all the palace intrigue.  Sometimes, you end up on the wrong end of the stick and are forced to leave. But Jungmyung (Lee Yun Hee) needs to pull herself yourself together in Hwajung/Splendid Politics! I’m used to my royals not going down without a fight. When Princess Deok Man was routed from the castle in Queen Seokdeok, she didn’t take that lying down! She hatched a plan to get back to her rightful place. Whe

I Got Your Back!: Battle Couples

The only thing better than going into a battle for all that is good and right is having your significant other with you. Time for my favorite battle couples! What is a battle couple? There are lots of Asian popular culture that feature action and romance. There are lots of couples where one member of the couple (usually the guy) is a righteous warrior.  Warrior women are all over the place, but they aren’t always in relationship with other warriors. Two people can be warriors,  but they aren’t

Brothers and Sisters in Kimi To Boku [You and Me] and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Anime series can be a frenetic experience with complex relationships, but some low-key anime series represent very sweet relationships between siblings. Kimi to Boku [You and Me] and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU are two low-key anime series set in high school that revolve around the everyday lives of students.  Kimi to Boku follows the exploits of four male friends who have been in the same class since kindergarten, so early episodes are peppered with flashbacks to them as adorable yet strange

I Run This: Women and The Inner Court in Empress Ki and Virtuous Queen of Han

Asian historical dramas are replete with queens, empresses and court ladies duking it out behind the scenes while kings rule the country. Some might think they are something akin to Disney princesses with no agency and little power, but the Korean drama Empress Ki and the Chinese drama Virtuous Queen of Han both show that women are running things. Men may run the country, but the inner court belongs to the ladies.  Like their male counterparts, women in the palace are dealing with problems of t
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